A Storm on Saturn the Size of North America

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Oct. 26 2012 12:30 PM

A Storm on Saturn the Size of North America

Imagine a nine-month-long storm the size of North America so volatile it eventually bursts through the atmosphere, spiking temperatures from Alaskan lows to Death Valley highs. 

It sounds like a dystopian sci-fi nightmare—or at least a really good disaster flick—but it actually happened on Saturn in 2010 and 2011. The Cassini spacecraft, which orbits the massive planet, picked up information about the unique meteorological event and relayed it back to Earth. Time-lapse images show a bright, enormous vortex zipping around the planet in multiple waves.

Scientists believe large storms occur annually on Saturn, where one year is equivalent to 30 on Earth, and we only now have the technology to track them. As the lead author of a study on the storm told the Los Angeles Times, “In generations to come, when they study storms on Saturn, this is what they'll come back to."

Jeffrey Bloomer is a Slate Video assistant editor. Follow him on Twitter.



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